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Anne Neuberger: Former NSA official shaped Biden’s cybersecurity policy

Anne Neuberger, the Biden administration’s deputy national security adviser for cyber and emerging technologies, hosted a virtual ransomware summit on October 13, 2021. She invited representatives from around 30 countries and the European Union , but none from several of the major United States. cybersecurity agencies, including the Department of State, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and the new Office of the National Director of Cyber ​​Security.

Officials from all three agencies eventually received invitations, but only as observers, and members of state and CISA left unhappy, according to five people familiar with the summit who requested anonymity to discuss the matter. the politically sensitive event. The shutter reflected the growing tension within the Biden administration as different factions vie for control of a critical political area – and reinforced the impression that Neuberger, a former National Security Agency (NSA) star, is become an actor of power neck and neck. the White House. “Anne essentially ran the summit as if it were a covert operation,” said a former senior US cybersecurity official familiar with the planning, who asked not to be named as sensitive details are involved .

The stakes in the bureaucratic struggle are high. Over the past year, gangs of criminal hackers, some with ties to the Russian government, have carried out a series of disruptive attacks on US businesses and critical infrastructure, and Russian President Vladimir Putin has shown little willingness to cooperate in an attempt to curb them . Growing tension with China increases the prospect of cyberconflict with an even more formidable adversary.

For more than a decade, US cybersecurity policy has been hampered by confusion and internal power struggles. In the last two years of the Trump presidency, no one had the clear power to take matters into their own hands. The Biden administration appears to have the opposite problem. The president brought Neuberger into the White House last January, but she was only in office a few months before the Senate confirmed Chris Inglis, one of her former mentors, as the country’s representative. first national cyber director.

Inglis, who reports directly to the president, immediately became a rival center of power. “It created a sticky situation of having no one in charge of cyber to two people in charge of cyber,” said John Nagengast, a 38-year NSA veteran, who then spent 15 years working on issues of security at AT&T.

The Biden administration can argue that things are improving. This successfully recovered most of the ransom paid to perpetrators of a hack that destroyed Colonial Pipeline, the largest pipeline in the United States, and the largest attacks have declined from the first half of 2021. “We have accomplished more to modernize national cybersecurity in the public and private sectors in the past 12 months than over the past decade. says National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, who credits Neuberger with much of the improvement.

Neuberger attributed his interest in national security to his family’s personal history with terrorism.

Photographer: Chris Kleponis / CNP / Bloomberg

According to interviews with over 40 people who know Neuberger personally or professionally, she is known as a brilliant tactician who can command a play and bend government bureaucracy to her will. But her relentless style has also made her a polarizing figure throughout her 14-year career in government. Neuberger had a particular tendency to clash with lawyers, say people who worked with her, an attribute some of her NSA colleagues admired. “If she thought, ‘This is what we have to do,’ she would push and try to do it,” Nagengast said. “And the people who opposed it, sometimes she knocked them down, basically.”

Neuberger, 45, was born to an Orthodox Jewish family in Brooklyn, NY Seven of her eight great-grandparents were killed at Auschwitz; her parents, George and Renee Karfunkel, were on a plane that Palestinian terrorists hijacked in 1976 and were held hostage at Entebbe Airport in Uganda for a week before Israeli commandos rescued them. Throughout her career, Neuberger has continued to keep kosher and return home in time for the Sabbath, although national security crises now occasionally arise.

George Karfunkel started American Stock & Transfer Trust Co. in 1971 with his brother, Michael. The company made the two men into billionaires, and Neuberger began his career there as a computer programmer in 1993. Her parents didn’t want her to go to college, but she persuaded them to let her go. a night school for girls while she continued to work. in his father’s business; she eventually received a double master’s degree from Columbia.

Neuberger attributed his interest in a career in national security to his family’s personal history with terrorism and his experience living in New York City on September 11. She got a job as a member of the White House in 2007 and quickly stood out even among other overachievers. in the program. Three years later, Neuberger became special assistant to Keith Alexander, then director of the NSA, and the two became close. In what would become a common thread in his career, Neuberger’s rapid rise to privileged status aroused some resentment in an agency whose top ranks have always been dominated by men. “She was initially considered a foreigner, and she had the eye of the director,” said a former employee of the NSA. “So immediately the antibodies from the NSA culture start to come out.”

relates to former NSA official vying to steer Biden's cyber policy


Photographer: David Paul Morris / Bloomberg / Bloomberg

Neuberger quickly began running one of Alexander’s favorite projects, a program to foster cooperation with private industry to help protect national infrastructure. In May 2013, she took charge of the NSA Business Solutions Center, which worked with private companies to collect intelligence and develop cybersecurity tools. These partnerships became the center of the biggest scandal in NSA history a month later, when Edward Snowden, an NSA contractor, disclosed documents implicating a handful of major tech and telecommunications companies in a massive domestic surveillance operation.

The Biden administration’s focus on cybersecurity policy is complicated by competition between rival power centers.


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